As a professional documentary, corporate, portrait, industrial/manufacturing and sports photographer for nearly a decade, I depend on my camera equipment as a tool to make images for my clients.
When my equipment needs adjusting or repairs, I depend on the manufacturer to stand behind their products and give good customer service. I’ve been a Canon user since my first digital camera and Canon has always stood behind their product, giving good customer service. In January 2015, I purchased a Sony a7S to use in low light situations, as a 3rd body and as a fun camera to always have with me.
In my experience, I believe there is so much going for the Sony alpha A7S and the whole a7 series of cameras however, there is one devastating fatal flaw.The Good, The Bad and The UglyThe GoodAs all the camera reviews state, the low light performance of the a7S is incredible. It’s 2+ stops better than my Canon 5D3. Files up to ISO 25,800 are very usable with comparatively minimal noise reduction.
Sony has managed to make a camera with all the advantages of a full frame sensor in a small, lightweight size. The camera’s sensor, processor and software create beautiful image files. At first I had reservations about the electronic viewfinder but after using the camera for a few days, I found it to be bright and accurate which was great because I prefer to hold the camera to my eye rather than use the LCD back.
The silent shooting mode is very nice, especially for use on movie sets although, under many indoor lighting situations, severe banding occurs. The whole a7 series is designed to use lens adapters (I use one from Fotodiox) so photographers can enjoy a wide variety of current and vintage non-Sony lenses.
- Sony Alpha A7S – Great Camera Overshadowed By Inexcusable Sony Service
- Sony Alpha A7 II – Good camera, still on the fence
My colleagues use Leica, Contax, Zeiss and other premium manual focus lenses. I’ve chosen to use old Nikkor lenses I had on hand from my 35mm film days and Sony’s focus peaking helps to show what is and what isn’t in focus. For several months, I thought that my little a7S was close to being the ultimate camera and was seriously considering getting an a7R…that is, until I needed to have my camera serviced.
The BadOn June 21, 2015, it was 85 degrees outdoors with high humidity…a fairly typical summer day in the Midwest. I was photographing a Converse One Star World Tour Demo event at a local skatepark. There wasn’t a breeze and it felt much hotter on the concrete. Like everyone else, I was sweating and happened to sweat a little on my a7S. After a while, the electronic viewfinder stopped working properly.
The image was dim with static and occasionally, a pink line would cycle through. Because I was using manual focus lenses and it was bright out, I needed to see through the viewfinder so when it quit working properly, my day of shooting was over.When I got home, I put the camera in a ziplock bag with silica gel pack.
The camera worked fine for a while but when introduced into humid environments like abandoned buildings while urban exploring or just an average summer day, the camera would act up again. Eventually, the viewfinder worked consistently but the issue moved to the shutter speed. It would get stuck on a narrow range of speeds…usually it was somewhere between 1/800 – 1/1600.
Because I came to rely on this camera, I found a workaround by adjusting the ISO up or down depending on the level of light.In October, I shot a corporate national conference and all the meetings and events were indoors. With the shutter stuck at a fast speed, a high ISO was required and that meant more noise in the images. It was time to send the body in for repairs.
We have been in business for 58 years and it is our goal to make your service experience a positive one. – From Precision Camera’s Oct. 28 confirmation emailThe UglyI found out the hard way that there’s a huge difference between Canon’s factory service department and Sony’s contracted service company, Precision Camera.Sony’s website indicates that Precision Camera was Sony’s official repair company.
I thought it was weird that Sony didn’t have their own service department like Canon and Nikon. I filled out the required online form explaining the issues with my camera, gave them my credit card number which authorized them to charge $384.45 for services and expected to get my camera back repaired, cleaned and ready to use, just like my experience had been with Canon.Precision received my camera on October 28. Twelve days later, I see that my camera has been flagged so I called to find out what was going on.
After two conversations with low level people who answer the phones, I was finally able to speak with Mia, a manager on Nov. 11.She said that the service department saw internal corrosion and that they were not going to fix the camera. She did not know how much internal corrosion there was, nor did she know where it was.
She asked if the camera was ever in the rain or had water splashed on it. I was up front when I told her about shooting with the camera up to my eye on a hot humid day and I sweated on it a little. She continued to refuse to authorize repairs and said my only recourse was to talk to Sony.While Precision’s customer service and repair was lacking, the speed at which they returned my camera was impressive.
It was at my front door on Nov. 12.- Nov. 18 11:54 CST – I called Sony’s customer service number, 888-222-7669, and spoke with Larry. After I explained my situation, he said he’d escalate the customer service request and someone should call in 24 – 48 hours.- Nov. 20 4:11 CST – After not hearing back within Sony’s timeframe, I called and spoke with Mark. After explaining my situation which he said he could see on his screen, he set said he’d set my request to high priority but that I should have already heard back.
I received a call from an odd number…102-796-3360. I answered but there was no one there. A minute later, it happened again with no one on the other end. I looked up area code 102 and it wasn’t listed as coming from the US. Soon after, I received an email from Marge whose title was Sony National Customer Relations saying that she’d tried to contact me and assigned my case a number. I quickly returned her email but to date, haven’t received a reply.- Nov. 20 5:45 CST – I called the Sony service number again, hoping to speak with Marge and got Larry who I spoke with two days earlier.
What are the chances I’d call a huge international company like Sony and the same person would answer the phone? He said that Sony would not repair the camera. After I insisted on talking to a manager, he put in that request and said one would call me within 24 hours. – Nov. 23 3:01 CST – After not hearing back within Sony’s timeframe again, I called the service number and talked to Alex.
He said that on Nov. 22, Sony had emailed Precision to request a diagnosis of the service needed to fix the camera and quote on the repair. He read the email which said that Precision had replied to their request and determined it would cost too much to repair, even though there was not an actual amount quoted. I also asked about the 102 area code. He said that customer relations uses internet phone lines so that may be why the area code isn’t listed as being from the US.- Nov. 23 3:08 CST – I received a call from Molly soon after my call with Alex was completed.
She identified herself as being with customer relations. If my previous calls weren’t with people in the customer relations department, who were those people? She repeated what Alex had told me, that Precision determined it was too expensive to fix my camera. The strange thing is that to my knowledge, Precision never gave me a quote to repair the camera.
Further, Precision said they wouldn’t fix the camera, not that they couldn’t…big difference. Molly apologized multiple times and said that Sony would not repair my camera because it would cost too much and that it was out of warranty. Since when does out of warranty mean a company should stop servicing their products leaving their customers stuck with expensive equipment that doesn’t work? I’ve sent two generations old camera bodies and lenses back to Canon for their factory service with no issues.
My friends who use Nikon have had the same experience with Nikon factory service. Sony and their contracted service provider, Precision’s refusal to service equipment out of warranty falls well short of general industry wide customer service practices. I requested that Molly transfer me to her manager but she said that there was no one higher in the company I could talk to. Was she the CEO or a board member? Doubtful because she seemed to be reading off a script…when the customer says X, reply Y and try to move on to the next call.
This scheme is common with companies who contract their customer service to other companies (usually in other countries), hoping their customer complaints go away instead of providing customer service. I had run into a solid customer service brick wall and she needed to get her call quota in for the day. The call lasted 17 minutes 51 seconds before Molly shockingly hung up on me.(Hopefully Not) The EndEven though the a7S is advertised as professional grade, whatever weather resistance the camera has, it isn’t adequate.
Over the years, I’ve used my Canon 1D3, 1D4, 5D, 5D2 and 5D3 bodies in some of the most extreme conditions. From ambient temperatures of over 110 degrees to downpours to blizzards to being exposed to severe helicopter vibrations in a warzone, my Canons have held up very well. When there is an issue, Canon has stood behind their products with good customer service.
In contrast with my first experience with Sony, the company falls well short.Sony has created a potentially great line of cameras that could change the entire industry. However, Sony/Precision’s customer service is so completely inadequate, it’s their Achilles heel and the fatal flaw in the a7 line of cameras. Sony has put itself at the mercy of Precision, a contracted service company who is clearly more concerned with lowering service costs than providing good customer service.
Does this mean that Sony has surrendered customer retention in favor of just trying to get a constant stream of new customers? Does the a7S II have better weather resistance? Sony’s website doesn’t say so.I believe that Sony is capable of doing much better and I hope they prove me right.
But in the mean time, the a7S iss a great camera while it works but an expensive paperweight because of poor to non-existent service from Sony/Precision when it doesn’t.